Official agreements for care of homeless people: Challenges and improvements for public policy

Official agreements for care of homeless people: Challenges and improvements for public policy

By Victoria Villalobos

The public policy of Mexico City has evolved in its way of understanding and caring for people who are homeless, by proposing laws, institutes and programs aimed to solve this problem for over twenty years.

The Interinstitutional Protocol for Comprehensive Care for People Living on the Street in Mexico City represents the most up-to-date document that we have at a national level for the purposes of analyzing this phenomenon. However, the latest modifications to it have generated some concern among civil society organizations that also serve homeless populations.

Protocol history

2001 was the first year of implementation of what was then called the “Emerging Social Care and Community Protection Program”, proposed by the recently created Institute for Social Assistance and Integration (IASIS). In 2010, the name of this program was replaced by “Preventive and Emergent Care Program for People Affected by Contingency or Social Vulnerability”, which expanded its objectives to serve people of street populations, as well as vulnerable groups, due to accidents or disasters.

It was not until 2015 that tools began to be drawn up to promote social reintegration in a more holistic way, with a tripartite approach based on prevention, intervention and social integtation.

Later, by changing its name from the “Emerging Social Care Program” to “Street Populations”, the program was aimed at making this group more visible, in addition to the start of various awareness campaigns aimed at the population in general. .

In 2017, the Comprehensive Care Program for People who are Members of Street Populations (PAIPIPC) was established, which is currently in force.

Under this sight, it could be possible to say that the government’s concern for this class of denominations, protocols, programs and institutions is recent and belongs to an administration of political alternation. This, however, shows that there is still a long way to go in terms of more complete policies, supported in turn by rigorous data and reliable studies.

In Mexico City, since 2008, different exercises have been carried out, collecting information on the number of people in terms of their composition, by families, age group, sex, ethnic origin and people with disabilities; their socialization points; employment and survival activities; time spent on the street and use of psychoactive substances. However, these exercises have been carried out with different methodologies, which makes it impossible to trace the data obtained. (CDMX Protocol, 2020).

Thus, there is currently no official data that allows us to know the real size of the population living on the streets.

Discussion forum

Mi Valedor had the opportunity to participate, together with other associations, in the Consultation Forum with civil society for the “Strengthening of the Inter-institutional Protocol for Comprehensive Care for People Living on the Street in Mexico City”, created with the intention of generating dialogue with those civil society organizations focused on related issues.

It generated a review of the latest modifications that have been made to the agreement. A good vision of the problem has been considered, as it is multifactorial and has many phases, it includes some modifications that do not turn out to be so beneficial.

For example, it seems that attention to people who are at risk of homelessness is no longer contemplated, which reduces the incidence of prevention. In addition to this, the protection of children no longer appears with as much emphasis as it previously did, which further harms the most unprotected groups within the street groups. Finally, the participation of civil society in the development of tools for the care of this population has been downplayed.


Problems to study

  • More and better data

Returning to counting problems, it is important to emphasize that homeless populations are groups with enormous diversity and intersected by various contexts, demographics and circumstances. However, as a country we do not have differentiated methods under these specifications, so the tools we use to generate data cannot result in defined numbers, and this does not allow the policy to adapt them to the reality.

The counting methodology must be corrected, since the current one yields much lower data than those observed by civil society organizations (a count is done one night at pre-established street points, which is deficient, since it is a population that is in constant movement, which is often hidden, etc.)

  1. Creating better care strategies

On the other hand, regarding the care strategies established by the protocol, it is thought that it could be enriched by the care strategies for street populations applied by civil society, of which there are written documents. Likewise, good practices in Latin America should also serve as a basis for action in Mexico, particularly that of “protected income”, which has generated good results.

  1. Program creation

It is necessary to create specific health and education programs for homeless people, since they do not exist. There is also no multiplicity of care aimed at providing basic hygiene access on public roads, which in the contingency caused by Covid-19 has proven to be even more essential, but it is above all important to guarantee good health for those who do not have other forms of cleaning.

In this aspect, there should be more and better shelters for homeless people in the city, even considering that each delegation should have at least one care center. In addition, it is necessary to improve the conditions of the current centers. Everyone has heard complaints about fleas, lice, nits, and unsanitary conditions.

  1. Evaluation of the protocol

Currently, the protocol does not have an external evaluation mechanism for the authority that applies it, which is important to generate objective metrics that can measure its success and have good monitoring of its care methods and tools.

Considering that the Political Constitution of Mexico City in its article 9, section D, establishes that every person has the right to the highest possible level of physical and mental health, all the previous recommendations are made in order to generate the conditions to guarantee that the most vulnerable sector can be attended in the best way, paying attention to their rights and respecting their integrity.

Victoria Villalobos

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